We recently talked about modeling as a side door for supporting our teens. Today, let’s look at a back window: affirming our teen’s worth.
This isn’t about going around and praising everything our teens do, nor do we need to give everyone a medal for everything. Sure, external praise and recognition can feel good at times, though when it’s all we’re giving or getting, both the receiver and recipient will end up astray, potentially overestimating current abilities, growing afraid of making mistakes, not learning the tool of resiliency, or not allowing space for another to learn and grow (and the space to make mistakes is hugely important for anchoring!).
In addition, when we’re handing out medals for everything, we’re modeling that outside validation and approval is the be all and end all. And looking solely outside of ourselves for validation? It’s a surefire road to not feeling great (and ultimately not thriving), because we can never completely fill ourselves up from the outside. Filling our proverbial bucket is an inside job.
Now, on affirming our teen’s worth (and our own too!) — this is about periodically sharing and reminding them about their inherent worth as a human being, which we all have from day one. We are perfectly imperfect and messy human beings. On the most fundamental level, we are and always will be enough and okay. There is nothing we need to do to earn our worth as a human being, nor can we lose it.
This isn’t to say we won’t make mistakes or need to tweak what we’re doing along the way, because we will. Life is messy, human-ing is messy, and we will mess things up sometimes (and the path to becoming our own main anchor is no exception; we’ll make some doozies). However, our fundamental human worth always is — without question.
Looking back over my own experience during the teen years and onward, the crux of my struggles was around not feeling enough or okay. I felt broken, wondering if I was failing as a human. In this pain, I did whatever I thought would help make me feel better or more enough — hello, relentless pursuit for external validation and a variety of self-destructive behaviors/habits/choices. And none of it worked; I didn’t feel any better.
I didn’t need more medals, awards, or compliments, nor did I need to focus on every self-destructive behavior and try to “fix” it then and there. What I needed was to be reminded that life was messy and sometimes I’d mess up, and no matter what, my inherent worth as a human being simply was. (And it was a huge bonus when the reminder came from someone who believed it and lived it themselves.)
Robin: Everyone makes mistakes and is a hot mess sometimes — everyone. Yup, that was a doozy. Yes, that probably stings (and might for some time); let it sting if it does. And you’re still okay as a human being.
In such a reminder, I began to feel some relief and a touch of space where I could breathe again. Life somehow didn’t feel quite so hard; I could feel a sliver of hope and possibility. And then in this space, I found that I could think more clearly and begin to consider what to do next, and then to take more mindful actions, which resulted in different (and generally healthier) outcomes. And as I heard it from the outside, I began to see that I could also remind myself of it as well.
The affirmation of my worth? It was a game changer for thriving.
I wonder how much pain stems from us not feeling that we are good enough and wondering if we are broken and failing. And when we’re not feeling good, there’s a greater possibility of making less than helpful and healthy decisions that can impact us and/or others around us. A response to this pain? More and more reminders that we are fundamentally human, okay, and enough. Then in the space that opens, we can ask more constructively: What do I want to do from here?
This isn’t to say that such a reminder is a quick fix that will smooth out everything, all of the time. Things are bumpy sometimes! Nor may we see an immediate response or change when sharing this reminder with another. However, it might start scratching the internal record that is on replay for many: “You’re not enough, you’re making mistakes, you’re failing!”.
Today, how might such a reminder help support your teen?